People often forget that social media is meant to be, well, social. And on digital channels, that translates to community. Below are six great ways to help you foster that great community you've spent years building through online marketing and social media content.
Community is everything on today's most effective social media marketing channel, Instagram. The visual platform has served as a playground for various interest groups to gather and exchange on topics they're passionate about, thus creating niche pockets of micro-communities. The aesthetic focus on this particular social network has helped make this virtual medium more tangible, bringing people together through a shared passion for specific styles of photos and videos.
The thousands of hashtags tied to unique topics or types of image composition currently in circulation prove it, such as #strideby or #coffeshopcorners. But creating an online community is not as simple as just making up a hashtag. Social marketing has layers of complexity that imperatively need to be grasped to succeed — and that begins with brands building the best online communities they can.
It makes all the sense in the world that a similar philosophy would need to be somewhat implemented when using Instagram for business purposes. Users congregate around a particular account because they are compelled by its content. Or in the case of a brand, because they love that company. In turn, it's that brand's job to cultivate those relationships. Marketing is no longer a one-way street, where companies can make everything happen perched from atop an ivory tower.
Indeed, new media has rendered marketing a reciprocal affair. Because businesses are now directly in communication with their consumers, the untouchable facades of yore are ancient history. If a brand continues to put up walls between itself and fans, there won't be much business to be had. The most valuable currency in today's landscape is a social media community.
Social media community management guidelines begin and end with engagement: brands need to engage with their customers and win over new fans with compelling content, which they, in turn, will hopefully engage with. The current environment has facilitated the ever so important dialogue that companies need to entertain with their consumers. A conversation that is now more important than ever for social media community building.
Case in point: a company like Glossier, which has quickly risen to cult status thanks to founder Emily Weiss' foresight and emphasis on social community. For that reason, all the brands want to know what Glossier's secret is. Repeat after us: community. Your fans are something to embrace, not commoners to scoff at.
The reigning community champ: Glossier.
Foster Dem Peeps
Now that we've laid out why community is important on social, it's time to list the ways in which you can lovingly foster your people.
1. Hire a Community Manager
Social media managers are amazing. We love them and have the utmost respect for folks in this role — their jobs are tough and they have a million things on their plates at all times. Managing the community should not be one of them. Especially if you want to make this a priority. Especially if you're a big brand, in which case community management tools definitely won't suffice. You need a human person.
Hiring a community manager will ensure that nothing involving your circles slips through the cracks. The results will also make your followers feel like they're valued, appreciated, and a part of something. Community managers will give a human touch to your marketing activities, a priceless quality that trumps all the special social media tools you may have in your arsenal.
2. Make UGC One of your Content Pillars
Out of all the social media tips we can give, remember this one above all else: user-generated content is a blessing. First of all, it means that people like your brand enough to create content about it. It also brings your account organic impressions, exposing it to other audiences by default, and allowing it to gain more followers. And then the kicker: it makes for great repurposing when you're just not sure what to post.
Assigning UGC to be one of your regular content segments will not only save your butt in a pinch, but it will also telegraph to your fans that you care about them. And that lucky regrammed duck will love you for all of eternity.
Like we said, #blessed.
Baublebar for the UGC win.
3. Engage With Your Followers
As we mentioned above, social media is not a one-way street. It indeed takes two to tango. You want your Engagement KPI to be high up in the sky? You're going to have to earn it.
There are many ways to do this:
- Answer questions when warranted. Certainly, inquisitive comments can get repetitive, and perhaps they've already been answered. It doesn't matter. If someone wants to know something about what you posted, it's your duty to give them a reply. Not only will you make the person extremely happy, but others will see the gesture as well, which is sure to humanize your brand.
- Interact by posing questions in your captions. If you want people to engage and create relationships with your followers, there's no better way to do so than through conversation. Real talk: everyone loves giving their two cents, so why not give them an opportunity to do so while both interacting with fans and contributing to your brand story?
- Like back. If a follower feels compelled enough by your posts to give them a double-tap or to leave a comment, be a gent and return the favor. It will mean a lot to them and will make you grow in their esteem. Also, your brand will receive exposure as a result. It's a bit of a self-serving favor to your audience, but think of it as social media etiquette. You don't want to have bad manners.
4. Go Into Discovery Mode
In order to create a community of fans who congregate around your storytelling abilities, one must be an active and proactive member of it. Aka participation. Take some time weekly for discovery sessions to engage with new stumbled upon users. Sift through Insta to like and comment on content that feels resonant with your brand image and acquire new tribe members in the meanwhile.
5. Tag Other Brands
Sure, other businesses are considered competition, but another way to approach it is to view them as comrades. If you're repurposing a piece of UGC where other brands are featured, don't be afraid to tag them as well! It'll reflect nicely on you and show others that you play fair. It also might compel them to do the same and thus expose your account to their audiences in the future. Amen to that.
6. Use Spirit On-Site Galleries
To really highlight your community and give something back to its members, nothing feels more personal and generous than a gallery of fan photos embedded on your website. It puts your appreciation on display while also helping to convert more sales (because spoiler alert: that's what UGC does). This is nothing but a win-win. Learn more about Spirit On-Site galleries and how they can help your social efforts.
Cool girl haircare brand OUAI is not afraid to show their peers some love on Insta. Click the pic to see the tags.
Creating your social media tribe and harnessing its power is not something that happens over night. It takes hard work, a deep understanding of your brand and its target, strong dedication, consistency, and lest we forget, patience. If you put in the hours, you will reap the benefits.
Your community will be stronger for it, and so will your bottom line.
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